Keeping retirement weird. Mr. Tunney.

I’m on a listserv of former friends from Fairfax High School in Los Angeles. I graduated from there 51 years ago.

Recently a thread started about our principal from back in the day: Mr. Jim Tunney.

Mr. Tunney has had four careers that I’m aware of. Before he was our principal I assume he was a teacher. After being our principal he became a leading National Football League official for 31 years. You may have seen him on TV.

Since then he has been a motivational speaker.

I still don’t understand how that is a career, but apparently it is.

My time with Mr. Tunney was relatively brief. It lasted just three years. I met him exactly two times.

The first time was in 1965. I was a junior. In those days we had to participate in what were called drop drills. The purpose of these drills was to…


There was no purpose to these drills.

They were part of our preparation for what we all thought was the inevitability of world-wide global nuclear war with the Russians.

Our teacher would suddenly say, “drop,”  and we were to crawl under our desks and put our hands over our neck in case of flying glass.

It seemed to many of us at the time that in the case of global nuclear war with the Russians, flying glass would be the least of our problems. And it seemed that whether we were sitting on or under our desks would not matter all that much.

As critical thinker even then, I expressed my reservations about the value of these drop drills. Since I also believed, even then, that thought should lead to action, one day I refused to drop.

This led to my first meeting with Mr. Tunney.

I sat across the desk from him in his office as he explained his responsibility as a principal to attend to the safety of all his students.

I talked about my belief in peace and nuclear disarmament and how schools should be preparing students for a world with no war instead of promoting fear and national hatred.

It was the Sixties, and I was seventeen.

Mr. Tunney looked at me as if he had no clue what I was talking about. So he sent me back to class and I never had contact with him again until I graduated in June of 1966.

On that warm June day, on the football field of Fairfax High School, I stood in line to receive an empty folder that was a stand in for the actual diploma I would receive later in the mail. I handed Mr. Tunney a slip with my name on it. He read it aloud and shook my hand with the same expression he had on that day in his office after I gave my peace speech.

He clearly had no clue who I was.

That was it. My total experience with Mr. Tunney.

That is why I was so impressed with the thread that broke out on my high school listserv. One of my fellow alums reported that Mr. Tunney had received some award and for the next three weeks people have been writing their impressions of him.

From 50 years ago!

Some of my fellow alums loved him. Some respected him. Some hated him.

This has gone one for three solid weeks.

About a principal from 50 years ago! He is now over 80 years old.

I shared on the list what I just shared with you. But added this:

May we all have a thread about us that lasts this long when we are over 80.




2 Replies to “Keeping retirement weird. Mr. Tunney.”

  1. We now know Ike agreed with.He told someone who was doing some sort of post nuclear survival and he said you don’t want to survive this.We also know Eisenhower was facing a coup threat from he Air Force that wanted a first strike.

  2. We were dropping and hiding under desks in Jersey too. I recall conversations with my classmates as to the degree of protection afforded by a desk if the building were to collapse.

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